A ballroom dancer's bookshelf


I’ve been thinking about my bookshelf for the past few days. For Valentine’s Day my girlfriend got me not one, but two books. They were both Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. One is for my place, the other is for hers. The idea is we can read them together, take notes, and become better people.

First of all, is she awesome or what?! I’ll save the gushing for another day, but suffice to say that I’m all sorts of excited about this relationship. Second, this got me thinking about the booklists of others. I sought out the recommendations of several of my favorite authors and bloggers. I recognized a few titles. Interesting. Not surprising.

All of our thought processes are continually shaped and reshaped by the environment that we put them in; that is why people tend to have the same religious beliefs as their parents and why it is so hard for us to see our own bias. It’s just a part of the fabric of who we are as humans. Books have played a central role in determining how I think about things, so I thought I might share a few from my bookshelf that have shaped my thoughts more than the rest.

In no particular order:


Do you know what makes you happy? You probably think you do. You’re also probably wrong. Gilbert’s deft handling of this psychology-heavy subject matter makes it accessible to everyone, and it’s revelations are interesting and applicable. Our brains make “basic and consistent mistakes” when trying to imagine the future, and in doing so set us up for pitfalls and delays that can derail our search for happiness. This book has the power to lay these bare and give you the tools to maximize your own happiness.

The book’s tagline, “Why so many predictions fail–but some don’t,” pretty much says it all. It may seem that this is a book for statisticians, but it’s applications go far beyond that and into our everyday lives. From explaining why election polls so often fail, to advocating for betting on US elections, Silver makes interesting and pertinent points about our human ability to forecast, and why it so often goes awry.

One of the books that ‘started it all’ for me, I happened across this little (big) gem in a thrift store. Though ostensibly about how to cook, this is really a tour de force in how to learn anything quickly. It’s the cookbook for everyone who has hated traditional cookbooks and their presumptions. It’s the cookbook for people who want to learn German while surfing in Hawaii. Even if you don’t agree with everything he does, his zeal and results are inspiring. One of Tim’s other books, The Four-Hour Workweek is also well worth the read.

I use this book differently than intended. On the surface, this is a book for men about meeting and attracting women. Why did I include it on my list? Because, when you let the problematic parts go (see gender binary, misogyny at times) I think there is still a lot to be learned from this book, especially when paired with the next book on this list. Manson’s focus is on attraction and dating, but the personal interaction principles that he champions (vulnerability, honesty, and self-investment,) and the way he explains how they apply are what make the book stand out to me.

No Sheer Dance book list would be complete without it! For a long time the title made me suspicious–it seemed manipulative. That certainly is one interpretation, but to me this book is about how being kind and cognizant of the concerns of others can make both you and those around you more successful. It’s hard to apply everything within its pages all of the time. Still, it will open your eyes to the myriad of ways that your everyday interactions can shape not only the way others think about you, but the way you think too.

So, what is on your bookshelf? What stories and authors have influenced the way that you see the world?

Leave a Reply